Monday, March 07, 2016

Dear Ms. Undine answers your March questions

Dear Ms. Undine,

Every day on the interwebs, I see new words that no one defines but that everyone seems to understand all of a sudden. I've seen "neoliberalism," which is something unspecified but very, very bad, and "intersectionality" (ditto), and "woke" as an adjective meaning "awakened." Do I need to look these words up every time I encounter them?

-- Signed,

Dear OED,

What you're encountering is the beauty of the interwebs. It used to take a longer time for words to trickle through the culture, but now they take over like a torrent. It makes for lively writing and an interesting culture. Here's a tip, though: do not simply google a word, especially if you aren't sure how it's being used, since there may be some regrettable, never-can-be-unseen images attached. Try Urban Dictionary instead.

Dear Ms. Undine,

Are these expressions cliches, or are they true?

1. "The perfect is the enemy of the good." 

2. "The best dissertation is a done dissertation." 

Afraid to be a Cliche

Dear Afraid,

Both. And do you know what they call people who are not afraid to be a cliche? Ph.D.

Dear Ms. Undine,

Sometimes when I am very tired, I watch House Hunters or House Hunters International. Don't judge me, Ms. Undine. IHE says we can learn from this show.

The house hunters used to be can-do types. "We can fix this," they'd say upon encountering a roofless shell with three crumbling walls.

Now, however, they mostly focus on their needs: "It needs to be an older house with charm, but totally modern rooms and bathrooms the size of an airport, in a perfect neighborhood." They also spend a lot of time ridiculing the homeowner's taste, like Ortho in Beetlejuice. Remember him? "Deliver me from L. L. Bean!"

I have two questions:

1) How do the homebuyers, who usually give their occupations as something like "freelance artist" and "visionary entrepreneur," afford $500,000 houses?

2) Am I a sociologist or a schadenfreude-filled hate-watcher for silently cheering when some of the more obnoxious homebuyers fail to get what they want?

Confessional Clara

Dear Confessional,

1) If you find out, please let Ms. Undine know.

2) Why did you pose this as an either/or question? Who are you, Pierre Bourdieu?


  1. "And do you know what they call people who are not afraid to be a cliche? Ph.D"

    This made me laugh out loud. You nailed it.